When Mr Tony Wagner, the Harvard education specialist, describes his job today, he says he’s “a translator between two hostile tribes” — the education world and the business world, the people who teach our kids and the people who give them jobs.
Mr Wagner’s argument in his book Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World is that America’s K-12 (primary and secondary education) and college tracks are not consistently “adding the value and teaching the skills that matter most in the marketplace”.
This is dangerous at a time when there is increasingly no such thing as a high-wage, middle-skilled job — the thing that sustained the middle class in the past generation. Now there is only a high-wage, high-skilled job.
Every middle-class job today is being pulled up, out or down faster than ever. That is, it either requires more skill or can be done by more people around the world or is being buried — made obsolete — faster than ever.
Which is why the goal of education today, argues Mr Wagner, should not be to make every child “college ready” but “innovation ready” — ready to add value to whatever they do.
That is a tall task.
I tracked Mr Wagner down and asked him to elaborate. “Today,” he said via email, “because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know.
“The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me: ‘We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can’t teach them how to think — to ask the right questions — and to take initiative.”’
WANT A JOB? INVENT IT